Our Amicus Brief in the State Funding Lawsuit

Did you know that there is a current lawsuit against the state to fund our schools? The Education Law Center (ELC) and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia brought the suit last fall on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations accusing the state of failing to uphold Pennsylvania’s constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education. The state is arguing that the case should be thrown out and there is a key court date coming up on March 11th.

Yinzercation has joined with other grassroots organizations to submit an amicus (meaning “friend of the court”) brief demonstrating the reasons this case ought to move forward. I will include the full Statement of Harm we were asked to file in support of the brief below. (Click here for the full amicus brief, which was delivered on Tuesday.) For more information about the lawsuit, including an easy-to-read FAQ, visit the Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation website.

If you would like to attend the oral arguments in the case, you are invited to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg (601 Commonwealth Avenue, Courtroom 5001) on Wednesday, March 11th at 9:30AM. As the ELC explains, “this is a historic case challenging the legislature’s failure to adequately support and maintain Pennsylvania’s public school system.” The suit “asks the Court to ensure that all students — including those living in low-wealth districts — have the basic resources they need to meet state academic standards. We ask the court to hear this case and enforce the rights of our children to a “thorough and efficient” system of public education as guaranteed to them by our state constitution.” If you plan to attend or have questions, please contact Spencer Malloy at smalloy@elc-pa.org.

Here is the information Yinzercation submitted to support the arguments in this important case:

Statement of Harm

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom five of all states in the proportion of funding provided by the state to public schools. This under-funding, combined with four years of de-funding in the 2011-2015 fiscal budgets, has pushed responsibility for supporting public education down on local municipalities, which have been forced to cut programs and staff. In its most recent survey of the state’s 500 school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) found that:[i]

  • 90% of school districts have cut staff, and more than 40% of districts have already, or plan to, cut more teachers.
  • 64% of districts have increased class size since the historic budget cuts in 2010-11, with the elementary grades hit the hardest.
  • Over half the districts will eliminate or reduce academic programs next year. The most frequently cited cuts will come from field trips (51% schools will eliminate); summer school (37%); world languages (34%); music and theater (31%); and physical education (24%).
  • Students will lose extra-curricular and athletic programs, or have to pay a fee, in over a third of the districts.
  • The vast majority of school districts report that their costs are going up because of un-funded state mandates (such as the administration of high-stakes testing).
  • In nearly every part of the state, districts are relying on local revenues (property taxes) to pay for a growing majority of school budgets. Over 75% of school districts will increase property taxes next year (that’s more than any in the past five years).

The over-reliance on local resources such as property taxes to support education exacerbates inequity in school funding as poor districts struggle to meet basic needs. In addition, because the state’s budget cuts to the most impoverished school districts were more than three times as large on average as those made to the wealthiest districts, Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable children have been harmed the most. For example, class sizes have increased more in high poverty districts while reading and math scores have declined the most for students living in poverty.[ii]

Graph-AverageFundingChangePerStudent201011-201415

[Source: PSEA analysis, 8-25-14]

Yinzercation’s analysis of data for Allegheny County supports the finding that on a per-student basis, the poorest school districts have been impacted the most by state budget cuts. Pittsburgh tops the list of districts most harmed with an average per-child loss of $1,038, followed by a list of nine other high-poverty school districts. Race is a crucial factor, too, as these districts have a large proportion of students of color. Those districts harmed the least by state budgets cuts in the county include those in the wealthiest suburban areas, including Upper St. Clair, which actually gained $4 on a per-student basis during this time period.

MostHarmedDistricts

LeastHarmedDistricts

In order to deal with the under-funding of their schools, poor districts have been forced to slash line items directly affecting students and their classrooms. For example, in 2012, Pittsburgh furloughed 285 teachers and educators. To put this in context, in total between 2008 and 2013, Pittsburgh students lost:

  • 17 percent of their teachers,
  • 45 percent of their librarians,
  • 35 percent of their paraprofessionals and support staff, and
  • 20 percent of their guidance counselors and psychological personnel.[iii]

Similarly, this school year, Wilkinsburg – a predominantly low-income, African-American school district adjacent to Pittsburgh – eliminated 18 teachers, amounting to a full 14% of its faculty. This was in addition to the 13 teachers and staff members who were furloughed last year.[iv]

Students in these districts are some of the poorest in the county, yet have lost critical education programs. Some examples illustrate the actual impact on kids:

  • Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, a Title I school with one of the largest achievement gaps in the city, eliminated its after school and Saturday tutoring program.
  • Some classes grew to 39 or more students.
  • This school also cut its middle level choral program and baseball team, and delayed instruction for instrumental students at the elementary level.
  • Pittsburgh Manchester, a Title I school with 94% students of color, has a brand new library built by the community but students cannot check out books because there is no regular librarian.
  • Parents and teachers at Pittsburgh Linden K-5 provide paper for photocopies and other basic supplies.
  • Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, a magnet school for creative and performing arts, eliminated sculpture classes for visual art students and solo lessons for instrumental students (a cornerstone of instruction in those fields).
  • There aren’t enough math textbooks for the students at Pittsburgh Allderdice high school.
  • The historic marching band at Pittsburgh Westinghouse high school was not able to purchase drumsticks or replace 15-year-old uniforms.
  • The district eliminated its Parent Engagement Specialists who worked with the most marginalized students and their families: this position had been especially effective at schools serving children bussed from distant communities (the result of a long pattern of school closures in poor neighborhoods and communities of color).
  • In 2014, Pittsburgh announced plans to cut additional world language classes, with schools eliminating language offerings entirely or seriously reducing courses.
  • The graphic on the following page offers additional impact statements from parents, students, teachers, and community members about the effect of cuts in Pittsburgh’s schools due to inadequate state funding.[v]

Inadequate state funding for school districts also leads to inequities within poorer districts, as some individual schools have access to community resources while others do not. For instance, one school on Pittsburgh’s East End has an active parent organization that annually raises over $60,000 to support educational field trips, student activities, classroom technology, and basic supplies – items that wealthier school districts are able to provide without relying on volunteer donations. Yet parents at other city schools struggle to raise similar donations leading to wide variation in the availability of crucial educational programs and enrichment opportunities for students within the same district. Adequate and equitable state funding for public education is crucial to address such inequities within and between school districts and to eliminate the harmful impacts on our most vulnerable children.

BudgetCutComments

[i] PASA-PASBO report, “Continued Cuts: The Fourth Annual Report on School District Budgets,” June 2014. [http://www.pasa-net.org/BudgetReport6-5-14.pdf]

[ii] PSEA report, “Budget cuts, student poverty, and test scores: Examining the evidence,” August 2014. [http://psea.org/uploadedFiles/LegislationAndPolitics/Key_Issues/Report-BudgetCutsStudentPovertyAndTestScores-August2014.pdf]

[iii] Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, “Financial Statements, Final Budget,” August 2013.

[iv] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 5, 2014. [http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2014/06/05/Wilkinsburg-teachers-approve-contract-permitting-furloughs/stories/201406050293]

[v] Great Public Schools Pittsburgh report, “Creating a District of Last Resort,” October 2013. [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwHydmYY4leQRVRVREpqd3BxUkE/edit]

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All They Want for Christmas … is Art Education

Last night at the final board meeting before the winter holidays, Pittsburgh students told school board directors what they want for their schools. If Santa was paying attention, he didn’t have to write down very much. The students’ wish list contains only one item: arts education.

The students who spoke at the meeting attend Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 and are concerned about the impact of several years of budget cuts on arts education across the district. They reached out to Yinzercation, and steering committee member Kathy Newman worked with them and helped them understand the process of presenting to the school board. Two of those students, seniors William Grimm and Margaret Booth, are co-presidents of the CAPA chapter of the National Arts Honors Society (NAHS). Through that chapter, they collected statements from other CAPA students about why the arts are important in public education.

National Arts Honors Society CAPA chapter co-presidents, Will Grimm and Meggie Booth, at their presentation to the Pittsburgh Public School board.

National Arts Honors Society CAPA chapter co-presidents, Will Grimm and Meggie Booth, at their presentation to the Pittsburgh Public School board.

As Grimm explained, “Recent budget cuts to the arts have had a profound impact on our district, especially CAPA. The visual artists lost their sculpture class, the instrumentalists their private lessons…it hit everyone hard.” Before presenting the statements from his fellow students, he told the board of directors, “They are real responses from real students who know how much the arts matter. These are from students of every grade, gender, race, and background. They are the voices of the ones most affected but least heard.”

You would have to have a heart like the Grinch – three sizes too small – to not be moved by these students:

  • “Art is empowering. It gives an outlet for emotions to youth struggling to figure them out. The arts allow a freedom no other discipline can offer. Without art, I would be nowhere; and everyone deserves the right to be somewhere.” – 11th grade
  • “Cutting money towards the arts is like cutting out a child’s personality. Students aren’t at school to just do math, science, English or social studies. We are here to learn about the world and how to interact with it.” – 9th grade
  • “To deprive public schools of the accessible and thriving art programs is to completely ignore a monumental aspect of a child’s development—their creativity.” – 10th grade
  • “We need to keep the arts in schools because nothing has taught me more about myself, what I believe, and how I connect with the world around me than the arts.” – 12th grade
  • “I believe that art should be kept and funded in schools because of the expressive value and apparent lack of freedom in school otherwise. Arts give people a sense of belonging and keep many people level headed. Art means everything to us and we thrive off of it’s cultural value.” – 12th grade
  • “…when we think of nuclear fission and sending men to orbiting celestial bodies, paint brushes and piano keys don’t come to mind. However, sometimes what matters is what we don’t see. Art has had an underlying current propelling academia. Leonardo da Vinci sketches of the human body led to research into anatomy. Philosophy and film inspired rockets to the moon. Why should we keep the arts? We should keep the arts because they provide direction to the force of math and science.” – 12th grade
  • “Art is important because it brings beauty to the world.” – 11th grade
  • “Why is this even a question?” – 12th grade

Margaret Booth began her testimony by saying, “Shakespeare gave me the words in 4th grade when I participated in the Shakespeare Scene And Monologue Contest with my elementary school. Frida Kahlo gave me strength in 9th grade as I admired her paintings and her story. The arts, in general, have given me the voice I have today.” Here is the rest of what she told the school board:

I have been in the Pittsburgh Public Schools since kindergarten. If I were to pick one aspect of these past years that has influenced me most significantly as a person, I would pick the exposure I have had to art, whether it be drawing on construction paper, acting in a play, or playing a screechy version of jingle bells on the school-provided violin.

During my time at CAPA, I have met hundreds of students with similar stories about how the arts have opened opportunities and possibilities in their lives. While I know the majority here agree with me about the importance of the arts in our schools, I am here today to reiterate the message that the arts have a profound impact on students, especially young children who begin to internalize self-worth at such an early age. When I think about my own confidence building, which can be attributed to early exposure to the arts, it saddens me to think that all children will not get these opportunities soon enough. As Colfax cuts middle level choral programs and Linden is unable to offer instrumental programs until 5th grade, I see systematic potential barriers for students from lower income homes, minority students, and those with disabilities from entering a school such as CAPA.

But aside from CAPA, I believe that students everywhere need exposure to the arts sooner. There have even been notable studies showing increased achievement in STEM classes when students also participate in art. This is because the confidence the arts offer is invaluable; art is neither right nor wrong, it is a life long process of creation that trickles down into the confidence to do anything.

As budgets are planned, I would ask you to keep the imaginative quality of youth in mind. The arts give students like me a voice louder than their own. Give them an instrument or a marker or music and they will give you a masterful new idea that could change the world. The arts unlock creative thinking and new approaches to problem solving quite different from STEM programs, something our future desperately needs.

I hope the Pittsburgh Public School board and administration listen to these wise students. If they have to send a letter to the North Pole as well, I’m sure these students would do it. But arts education is difficult for elves to manufacture and for reindeer to deliver. So we will continue working with these fabulous young people to make sure our state legislators – who control the purse strings for public education – hear them, too.

Who is Voting for Tom Corbett?

Ever since he slashed close to $1 billion from public education back in 2011, Governor Corbett has been claiming he did the very opposite. So it’s no surprise – though completely ludicrous – that he has been campaigning on his “record of support” for public schools. Still, I spit out my coffee when I saw the full page ad in this morning’s Post-Gazette. (See first image, below.) To set the record straight, I made some factual corrections. (See revised ad, below.) We don’t have Corbett’s deep pockets to take out a full page ad in the paper, but we can share this post – and share the truth!

CorbettPG2014adCorbettAdSpoof

Celebrating Hope, Action, and Change

Pittsburgh hosted the national launch of Bob Herbert’s new book last week with an event that was part rally, part community meeting, and part serious conversation. But it was also a fun celebration of our education justice movement with kids and drums and balloons, full of hope that ordinary folks like us can change the world when we work together. Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America tells a series of close-up stories about growing income inequality, the true costs of war, and our country’s failure to invest in public goods from infrastructure to education. It’s a devastatingly honest account of our national policy failures and the consequences of misplaced priorities. In a book full of gripping narratives – including a woman badly injured in the Minneapolis bridge collapse and a solider from Georgia who loses both his legs and more in Afghanistan – we are a point of hope. Herbert was inspired by our truly grassroots movement fighting back against the defunding and corporatization of public education. And he wound up writing three chapters on education, two of them framed closely by our work in Pittsburgh.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provided children's activities

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provided children’s activities

Drummers from Pittsburgh Dilworth and Pittsburgh Linden performed for the audience

Drummers from Pittsburgh Dilworth and Pittsburgh Linden performed for the audience

Rev. Freeman, president of PIIN, delivers opening words helping us think about the three African American teenagers we lost in Pittsburgh in just one week

Rev. Freeman, president of PIIN, delivers opening words helping us think about the three African American teenagers we lost in Pittsburgh in just one week

Over 300 people were in McConomy Auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University for the event!

Over 300 people filled McConomy Auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University for the event!

Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette moderated the conversation with Bob Herbert

Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette moderated the conversation with Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert emphasized the need to grassroots activism and a coordinated effort to fight income inequality and for good jobs.

Bob Herbert emphasized the need for grassroots activism and a coordinated effort to fight income inequality and for good jobs.

Bob Herbert explains that the movement will have to come from the bottom up.

Bob Herbert explains that the movement will have to come from the bottom up.

Jessie Ramey and Kathy Newman are two of the four Pittsburgh parents mentioned by name in the book (spoiler alert:  Sara Segel and Sara Goodkind are the other two!)

Jessie Ramey and Kathy Newman are two of the four Pittsburgh parents mentioned by name in the book (spoiler alert: Sara Segel and Sara Goodkind are the other two!)

Bob Herbert answered audience questions

Bob Herbert answers audience questions

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Our friends at Mystery Lovers Bookshop sold copies of the book hot off the press!

Our friends at Mystery Lovers Bookshop sold copies of the book hot off the press for Herbert’s first stop on his national book tour!

Bob signs books while a film crew interviews audience members.

Bob signs books while a film crew interviews audience members.

We are participating in a new social media campaign encouraging people to talk about what #OurSchoolsNeed

We are participating in a new social media campaign encouraging people to talk about what #OurSchoolsNeed

Hill District activist Kent Bey, who runs the Stand Up Now Network, participates in the #OurSchoolsNeed campaign

Hill District activist Kent Bey, who runs the Stand Up Now Network, participates in the #OurSchoolsNeed campaign

Tony Norman with his son, Chris, a PPS graduate, say we need more art in our schools

Tony Norman with his son, Chris, a PPS graduate, say we need more art in our schools

Yinzercation_0220 Not surprisingly, Bob Herbert is getting a lot of national press, including this interview on Bill Moyers (where you can also read the introduction to the book) and an excellent Politico feature on “The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires are Ruining Our Schools.” Locally, Bob Herbert was on WESA’s “Essential Pittsburgh,” the Rick Smith Show, Jon Delano’s KDKA Sunday business show, and was interviewed by the City Paper. Congratulations, Pittsburgh, on another moment in the national spotlight as we celebrate real hope, grassroots action, and change from the bottom up.

If you missed this incredible book launch, or just want to keep the conversation going, please consider joining our co-sponsor, the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Council, for an informal gathering to discuss Losing Our Way: Monday, October 27, 2014 from 7-8PM at the PAJC offices (Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 5th Avenue). Light refreshments will be served. More information at pajc@pajc.net.

It’s Education, Stupid

Is it any surprise that Governor Tom Corbett is woefully trailing his opponent, Tom Wolf, in the polls? The latest numbers released last week show Tom W. ahead of Tom C., 49% to 31%. With 60% of registered voters saying that Pennsylvania is “off on the wrong track,” survey respondents continue to name education as their number one concern. [Franklin & Marshall poll, Sept. 2014] In fact, education is now far ahead of “the economy,” which has traditionally been voters’ primary concern (going back to at least 2006 in these polls).

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign against incumbent President George H.W. Bush featured the famous line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In Pennsylvania this election cycle, “it’s education, stupid.” (Now, my mother taught me not to call people stupid; so please note, I am not calling you stupid, dear reader, I know you get this point – which is exactly the point!)

In fact, I said this very thing last week when I appeared on “Get to the Point,” a PCNC Friday night talk show. I had the chance to sit across from Bob Bozzuto, the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, and Katie McGinty, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and now chair of the Fresh Start PA campaign supporting Tom Wolf. And for an hour, I did my best to steer the conversation back to education, education, education.

Jessie Ramey on "Get to the Point" with host Lenny McAllister, Katie McGinty of Fresh Start PA, and Bob Bozzuto, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party

Jessie Ramey on “Get to the Point” with host Lenny McAllister, Katie McGinty of Fresh Start PA, and Bob Bozzuto, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party (September 19, 2014)

Yesterday, we took this message directly to Gov. Corbett himself. Or at least we tried. The governor was in Pittsburgh for a rare visit, but not to meet with educators or students or parents. Rather, he was in town to meet with Marcellus shale corporate executives. Yes indeed. He reserves his elbow rubbing for the people who line his campaign coffers with huge donations to make sure he doesn’t tax their industry (which would help pay for our public schools). [Post-Gazette, 9-25-14] OnePittsburgh rolled out the “People’s Red Carpet” welcome outside the convention center to demonstrate who he is walking over.

Just to further prove how out of touch this governor is with Pennsylvania families, on Monday at his first debate with Tom Wolf, Gov. Corbett said that nurses, social workers, librarians, guidance counselors, and paraprofessionals don’t count. He was referring to the 27,000 educators who have lost their jobs since his historic budget cuts in 2011. Specifically, Gov. Corbett stated: “That’s a false number. Those aren’t all teachers. Those are people that worked in the system, that were part of the administrations. They weren’t all teachers.” [CSPAN archive] These were 27,000 adults our children had in their lives every day, working with them in their classrooms, helping them succeed in school, and we’re not supposed to count them as lost educators?

Election day is November 4th and it can’t come soon enough. Between now and then, Pittsburgh’s own folk legend, Anne Feeney, will be traveling around Pennsylvania with her “Crush Corbett Road Show.” Anne asked Yinzercation to create a flyer with information about the governor’s record on education, which she will be distributing on her concert tour. In closing, I leave you here with a copy, as the facts speak for themselves.

Corbett_CutsHurtKids_flyer

Hurting the Poor

I don’t know how Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, can keep a straight face when he talks to reporters. Again and again he declares that Governor Corbett “has increased state funding for public schools by $1.5 billion” over the past four years. [Post-Gazette, 8-28-14]

Anyone with half a brain or with a school age child can tell you that’s a load of hogwash. Sometimes having school age children makes us parents operate with only half a brain, but we can still tell you that Pennsylvania kids are sitting in larger classes, with fewer of their teachers, and missing critical books, supplies, academic courses, and programs.

Of course, what Mr. Eller means is that Gov. Corbett collapsed a bunch of line items into the Basic Education Funding portion of the budget, so that he could say that this single line item increased. Meanwhile, he decimated overall state funding for public schools. Gov. Corbett also likes to tout the additional dollars he put into pension payments (as required by state law) when he calculates that $1.5 billion figure, but will not account for the fact that he slashed charter school tuition reimbursements for districts, Accountability Block Grants, School Improvement Grants, or other programs such as the Education Assistance and High School Reform programs.

As the following graph clearly illustrates, even allowing for increased state contributions to pension payments, our schools are still not receiving the level of preK-12 funding that they were back in 2008-09! (In this chart the federal stimulus dollars are in yellow and pension dollars in light blue: check out the dark blue columns to see how our schools have been set back more than six years in budget cuts.)

PAbudget_w_pensions

But this is more than a rhetorical debate over which line items to count. Four years into this mess it is now clear that these historic budget cuts have hurt our poorest students the most. A new report out this week analyzes state funding per child and finds that budget cuts to the most impoverished school districts were more than three times as large on average as those made to the wealthiest districts. What’s more, using the state’s own data, the report demonstrates that class sizes increased more in high poverty districts and that reading and math scores declined the most for students living in poverty. [Budget cuts, student poverty, and test scores: Examining the evidence, PSEA August 2014] Look at the disparity in chart form:

Graph-AverageFundingChangePerStudent201011-201415

[Source: PSEA, 8-25-14]

What does that look like here in Southwest Pennsylvania? Just look at the following table of the ten biggest losers in Allegheny County on a per-student basis. Pittsburgh tops the list of districts most harmed by budget cuts with an average per-child loss of $1,038, followed by a parade of high-poverty school districts. It’s worth noting the story of race here, too, as these districts have a large proportion of students of color. Compare these numbers to Fox Chapel, which has “only” lost $36 per student (no students should be losing money for their education), or Mt. Lebanon ($9), or my alma mater, Upper St. Clair, which has actually gained $4 on a per-student basis.

MostHarmedDistricts

 LeastHarmedDistricts

Perhaps Gov. Corbett should spend more time explaining why his policies are hurting poor kids than trying to convince us that he has increased spending on public education. We parents just aren’t that gullible.

Taking it to Harrisburg

From the ‘burgh to H’burg and back in one day. On June 18th, 25 parents, students, and teachers left Pittsburgh under gray skies at 7AM, but arrived in Harrisburg a few hours later under blue, pumped up and ready to meet with their legislators.

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Our bus included folks from across the city, as well as the North Allegheny School District, and two teachers who live in Pittsburgh and teach in Woodland Hills and Mt. Lebanon.

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The trip was organized by volunteer parents with Yinzercation (special thank yous to Sara Goodkind and Kathy Newman!), and made possible by contributions from the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Education Voters PA, the PA Budget and Policy Center, and an anonymous donor. The PA State Education Association (PSEA) kindly welcomed us with snacks and a bathroom break, before we ran across the street to the Capitol Building.

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We started the day with a press conference, organized by Better Choices for Pennsylvania, a coalition of over 60 organizations allied for a responsible budget. The message was clear: “no more cuts, we have to grow the pie” with other revenue sources so there is enough for all. To drive home the point, the coalition delivered little pies to each legislator’s office. I helped with some of those deliveries, including one to Jake Wheatley, while the rest of our group got busy meeting with other Representatives and Senators on our list.

JessiePressConference

One thing we learned from our trip is that the Capitol is literally swarming with professional lobbyists – some of whom had the audacity to make fun of our group during the press conference – which reinforced for us just how important it is to have “ordinary people” like us take the time to show up and talk with legislators. We are the actual constituents they are there to represent, but legislators generally only hear from those paid to talk to them.

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We split into groups and managed to squeeze in visits to the offices of Jay Costa, Wayne Fontana, Donal White, Dom Costa, Ed Gainey, Mike Turzai, Paul Costa, Dan Frankel, and Daniel Deasy. Some legislators were still in session and we met with their staff, but in every case, we spoke about the same thing: the real impact of budget cuts on our children and schools and the need for adequate, equitable, and sustainable state funding for public schools.

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Rep. Ed Gainey, whose children attend Pittsburgh Fulton and were there visiting with him for the day, spoke at length about his support for public education.

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Here’s a group meeting with Dan Deasy. The students were particularly eloquent! Two of us also took some time during the afternoon to meet with gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf’s policy director about his education platform. We are eager to get Mr. Wolf back to Pittsburgh to talk to families so we can understand his vision for public education.

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Our last stop was the Governor’s office, where we delivered a petition with over 12,000 signatures calling for fair funding for our schools! Then it was time to get back on the bus, debrief each other on our visits, eat more snacks, and talk to new friends. Everyone agreed it was a very worthwhile day and that grassroots activism really does make a difference. Before we knew it, we were back in the ‘burgh and ready to start planning our next event together.